If the goal is to take non-athlete youth and get them started in the training world, this means teaching them the basics of how, what, and why, while also helping them build a strong and healthy body.
If the coaches Golden Rule is “do no harm,” that concept becomes infinitely more pronounced when it comes to training teens. When motivation, enthusiasm, and unchecked ego meet new movement patterns, uncertain capabilities, and loaded barbells, things can go catastrophic in an instant.
The most effective way to introduce young people to training, is by starting with a well-designed bodyweight routine. It allows them to build a base level of strength, muscular coordination/body awareness, and conditioning. Some muscular size is also a very welcomed side effect.
Not only do bodyweight exercises promote inter-muscular coordination and balance better than free weights (if a kid can’t do a few good bodyweight squats, you are not going to put a barbell on his back), they also lend themselves to what Tudor Bompa called anatomical adaptation, or AA.
AA is a period of relatively higher-rep training designed to physically prepare a new or deconditioned lifter for an intense lifting program. AA is used to develop the tendons, ligaments, and smaller support structures before progressing to heavier, lower rep, higher intensity training.
This type of routine also builds the habit of, “We train on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, every single week”, while introducing our beginner to the muscular fatigue and, to an extent, soreness that they’ll come to know and love.
But lifting weights stunts growth in kids! Um, no.
One key concept, possibly the most important concept when it comes to kids and lifting, is to avoid muscular failure. Every single set should be ended well-before true failure is reached, ideally keeping one or two reps with good technique “in the tank.”
Old school lifters’ mentality might be to continue each set until the bar doesn’t move an inch, but when it comes to young adults and their still-developing bodies, if the target muscle has reached failure, the undeveloped support structures around that muscle have been pushed beyond failure and the kiddo is now at risk of legitimate injury.
This is the one and only aspect of lifting that the old “weight training stunts children’s growth” myth has any bearing on. While supervised, well-designed training programs are absolutely beneficial to kids, a poorly designed and/or poorly supervised program can be equally damaging.
Avoiding muscular failure should be the number-one underlying theme in any young lifter’s program until he’s nearing the end of puberty (or past 18 years old as a very general rule of thumb). And even then, it’s debatable whether or not training up to or beyond failure is necessary for anyone.
Excerpts taken from T-Nation.
Article by Chris Colucci, editor and forum director.